Multiple states warn not to use unsolicited packages of seeds sent through the mail

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(NEWS10) – Agriculture officials in multiple states have issued warnings about unsolicited shipments of foreign seeds and advised people not to plant them over concerns that they could be an invasive plant species.

In New York, the state Commissioner of Agriculture Richard Ball released this statement.

“Our office has received questions from a few New Yorkers who have received unsolicited packages allegedly sent from China that are marked as containing jewelry but which actually contain plant seeds. Similar packages have been received in other states and the United States Department of Agriculture is investigating. People who receive seeds should not plant or handle the seeds. They should store them safely in a place children and pets cannot access and email USDA immediately at erich.l.glasgow@usda.gov for instructions. Seeds imported into the United States are rigorously tested to ensure quality and prevent introduction of invasive species, insects and diseases. We will continue to monitor this issue and will pass along guidance as it is received from USDA.” 

Due to the high volume of inquiries and reports from residents receiving unsolicited, mislabeled and/or unlabeled packages of seed in the mail, the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets, along with the United States Department of Agriculture, are asking that New Yorkers please mail the sealed package of seeds, the original packaging, the residents’ contact information, and any additional relevant details directly to the USDA at:

Office of the State Plant Health Director of New York c/o Christopher Zaloga,
United States Department of Agriculture
500 New Karner Rd.
Albany, NY 12205

In Kentucky, the agriculture department says it was notified that several Kentucky residents received unsolicited seed packets sent by mail that appeared to have originated in China. Many of the packets have Chinese writing on them.

Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said Monday the types of seeds are unknown and could be harmful. He stressed that the seeds should not be planted.

Several Virginia residents have informed the department that they have received packages in the mail containing seeds that appear to have come from China. In an email, the department states that the type of seeds in the packages are unknown and “may be invasive plant species.” (photos provided by the VDACS)
Several Virginia residents have received packages in the mail containing seeds that appear to have come from China. In an email, the department states that the type of seeds in the packages are unknown and “may be invasive plant species.” (photos provided by the VDACS)

In North Carolina, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services says it was contacted by numerous people who received seed shipments they did not order.

Departments of Agriculture in Tennessee, Virginia and Ohio have warned about the seed packets as well.

Unsolicited seeds could be invasive species, contain noxious weeds, could introduce diseases to local plants or could be harmful to livestock.

Invasive species and noxious weeds can displace native plants and increase costs of food production. All foreign seeds shipped to the United States should have a phytosanitary certificate which guarantees the seeds meet U.S. requirements.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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